I really wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, and the only reason for this was that writing came easier to me than other subjects did. I wanted to be a writer because I didn’t want to try to learn anything else. Everyone does that, though. Kids who are good at art want to grow up to be artists, kids with a knack for science want to be scientists, and kids who like math want to be calculators.
Now that I am a little taller and ostensibly a little more mature, I do indeed write stuff for a living. I pay for my groceries and home by picking words and putting them in order. I always feel like a hustler on pay day because it seems wrong to exchange “organizing words into sentences” for actual money. I don’t even make the words — someone else already did that.
I’m lucky. I go to work and I get to fulfill my childhood dream and write things! I mean, theoretically. What actually happens is that I go to work and someone asks me to write something and I say, “OK! I love writing!” and then I do every other thing on my to-do list instead. Sometimes I do every other thing on other people’s to-do lists, just to put it off. I really do love writing. It’s just that I also hate it with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns.
Before I sit down to write I know that being a writer is better than being… well. What’s the best thing to be? A princess? An astronaut? Both, somehow? But everything changes about 10 minutes in, when I remember that writing is not fun at all, but an exercise in humility and pain.
Sometimes these feelings occur simultaneously, so we’re going to try something kind of ambitious today, guys. We’re going to attempt two lists at the same time. SYNCHRONIZED LISTING. List #1 will be in normal text like this. List #2 will be bold, like this.
List #1: Writing — Better Than Being an Astronaut Princess
List #2: Writing — Worse Than Bamboo Splints Under Your Fingernails, Probably
1. Writing is romantic. Writers sit in light-bathed attics each day, huddled over typewriters that are antique in a good way, banging out their masterpieces. Each night, they drink too much in bars full of painters and musicians and muses, and even though writers are poor, they are fulfilled as artists and that’s what counts. Then they die young of tuberculosis, and that is tragic and so, so cool.
1. Writing is bleak. The harsh reality is that when I write, I sit hunched over my laptop keyboard, getting crumbs of junk food down my sweatpants. I don’t go out to bars because a) I hate going outside and b) I fall asleep stupid early. Also, my lungs are doing ok.
2. Writing comes with good company. I mean, you’re a writer so obviously you’re also kind of a lone wolf, but you have influences! You’re friends with other writers and you don’t even geek out over them like a normal, lame human would.
2. Writing is lonely. It would be less lonely if it didn’t make me so grumpy, but yesterday I growled at a stranger who interrupted me. For the record, this is not a good friend-making technique.
3. Writing is easy. What could be easier than setting words you already know down? Your writer’s brain is so full of ideas that you’re actually kind of worried you have too many. You wake up every morning with a dozen more that came to you in dreams.
3. Writing is haaaard. My grammar is all over the place, I second-guess the spelling of even the most basic words, and I will never get over the frustration of knowing what I want to say and somehow not being able to say it. When I have ideas, they are bad. Like, unspeakably bad.
4. You take pride in your work. You are a writer and so that’s what you call yourself. You introduce yourself that way to strangers and no one doubts it. You labor long (enjoyable) hours over your work, but at the end of it you know you could not have done better. Unless the general public loves your work, and then you have to disavow it because it was the literary equivalent of frothy pop.
4. You hate everything you make. I cringe when people say the word “writer” around me because I don’t feel qualified. If I come out of a project feeling good about it, it usually means it’s terrible. If I feel bad about it, it often means that people will like it a lot and I will suspect all of them of terrible taste, recent head trauma, or of being complicit in an elaborate and cruel joke.
5. Writing is an art. You have an uncompromising artistic vision. You are not afraid to be a real jerk about it, either, because you have a god-given talent, your critics don’t, and that’s all there is to it.
5. Artistic integrity is overrated. If writing copy for hot dog packaging pays the bills, believe me when I say I will be there, letting my artistic vision fall by the wayside. In fact, if anyone reading this is in the wiener business, I have a few ideas I’d like to run past you.
Ugh. That’s it. Writing sucks. I don’t want to do it any more. Now that I’m on the other side of this blog post, I’m done. Goodbye, writing, and good riddance!
…Actually, now that it’s over, writing this really didn’t seem that bad. If I remember correctly, it was actually kind of a fun and magical process. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing, I… I think I love you.